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17 Divinity St
Bristol, CT, 06010
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8605895155

Since 1975, O'Donnell Bros has been providing greater Bristol and Central Connecticut with residential and commercial remodeling solutions. We specialize in roofing, siding, windows, doors, gutters, downspouts and so much more. We look forward to helping you with all your remodeling needs. 

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Articles

O'Donnell Bros President, Bob O'Donnell, is a regular contributor to The Bristol Press. Read his home improvement articles here.

 

Filtering by Tag: outdoor

Create a Hip Backyard Centerpiece with a Fire Pit

Chelsea O'Donnell

Fire pits are a major backyard trend right now and one that I personally enjoy on many summer and autumn evenings when the temperature gets cooler. If you’re thinking about building one in your backyard, there are several options to consider depending on your set-up and preferences. Let’s dive into a few of the most popular choices.

 The number one consideration for an open fire is always safety over aesthetic. A fire pit creates a beautiful ambiance that can be enjoyed by the whole family, but a fire is always something to be very cautious about. Make sure to check with your town to understand the rules around bonfires and fire pits before you get started. As an example, according to the Fire Department FAQ’s on the Bristol, Connecticut website, open burning in a chiminea, fire pit, or patio hearth is allowed as long as the fire doesn’t exceed three feet in diameter and does not extend beyond 1am. Again every town is different, so be sure to check with your fire department first.

Once you have the all clear, it’s time to start thinking about the look you’d like to achieve and the space you have available to you. For smaller patios, the most popular options are generally chimineas or fire bowls which are not affixed to the ground and can technically be moved around. When buying a freestanding unit, be sure to invest in one that’s heavy enough so it won’t tip over, and always utilize a fireproof mat underneath, especially if you’re using it on a deck or wood surface. 

If you’re trying to choose between a chiminea and a firepit or bowl, think about whether or not you’re planning to use it for any kind of cooking. I like pits or bowls over chimineas because you can always throw a grate on top for sausages or access the flames for s’mores.

For something more permanent, the most popular fire pit building materials are brick, stone, and concrete. All three materials are very sturdy and will handle a fire just fine, so the choice of materials really depends on your home aesthetic and the budget for your job. Concrete will generally be less expensive while high-end stone can run you several hundred dollars.

What’s even more important than the material, of course, is space. The last thing you want is to build a fire pit to then realize that there isn’t enough room for friends and family to sit around it. A nice pit for four should be about three feet wide, plus you’ll want to leave a two-foot gap between the rim of the pit and where your chairs will sit to ensure no one gets toasty shins. When it comes to height, I recommend building slightly lower than the seats of your chairs to ensure that the fire is appropriately surrounded but still has enough room to let off plenty of heat. Now sit back and enjoy!

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


Maintain Your Stone Patio for Decades of Use 

Chelsea O'Donnell

Two years ago, I replaced my wood deck for a stone patio. After almost 30 years, I was ready for a new look and the deck itself was coming to the end of its life. But after decades of cleaning, staining, and sealing wood, I wasn’t quite sure how to maintain my bluestone. Luckily, I am now an expert! Here is what I learned as a newcomer to patio protection.

The one thing that makes a patio a bit riskier than a wood deck is that they are laid right on the ground instead of on a platform, which means that any shifts or movement in the earth can cause cracks and splits between the joints or the stone itself. Additionally, weeds are unbelievably strong little pests. After time, they always find a way to creep through the joints. Brick patios are especially susceptible to weed infiltration and ants love making their homes in the gaps too. Luckily, sealing a stone patio on a regular basis is a surefire way of keeping both pests and weak points at bay.

You can start with a thorough cleaning not unlike the process you might be used to for a wood deck. Begin by removing any debris and loose dirt and dust with a firm broom, and then fire up the pressure washer. Stone can be stained from rusty patio furniture so be sure to pretreat and scrub down any marks before giving it a good power wash. Leave it to dry for at least 24 hours.

Next, inspect the joints closely. This is a tougher job for bricks than larger stone, but it’s important to repair any erosion or loose pieces before you apply your sealant. Otherwise, the stone will become uneven and the gaps will invite weeds and ants to make their homes inside. You can use sand to fill any spaces that have deteriorated over time.

Now you’re ready to seal. Each product is different so you’ll want to pay close attention, especially when it comes to finishes. I always look for a high quality, water-based sealant that I can spray on easily. I recommend applying two thin coats and waiting 24 hours between applications to ensure you achieve an even finish. Wait another 24-48 hours after the final coat to put patio furniture, grills, and any other equipment back on the surface.

This may seem like a lot of work, but if your patio isn’t susceptible to too much environmental exposure, you can get away with a good clean and seal every other year. Trust me, the effort is worth it and will extend the life of your patio for years to come.

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


A Good Cleaning Will Extend the Life of Your Deck for Years

Chelsea O'Donnell

I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July! While celebrating with family at a backyard barbecue, I started thinking about decks, patios, and the outdoor spaces that we all enjoy during the summer. Sure, they are wonderful to have, but they take a lot of work too. So let’s talk about how to best maintain them, starting with a deck. 

The life expectancy of a wood deck is about 10 to 15 years, but did you know that it could last north of 20 years with proper cleaning and maintenance? That’s right, with a good seasonal scrub and sealing, your deck could stay looking beautiful long after your neighbors’ needs replacing.

A deck takes a lot of abuse during the seasons. The summer sun is especially harsh and the humidity forces the wood to expand and contract, which can lead to shifting and splitting. The winter is no picnic either as snow, ice, and freezing temperatures will do their fair share of damage to both the surface and the joists. With all those elements taking their toll, it’s no wonder why a deck is so susceptible to rot. Luckily, there is plenty that you can do to take care of it, so let’s get to it.

Attack the Crevices

The first thing you have to do is sweep the surface of your deck clean, and then grab a putty knife to dislodge all the debris stuck in the nooks and crannies. Whirlybirds and leaves can do a lot more damage than you think because they begin to rot as soon as they get wet. Leaving them trapped in the wood will most certainly send your deck to an early grave. This is also a great time to sand down any splintered areas and replace deteriorated or popped nails or screws.

Scrub the Wood

Once your surface is completely debris-free, it’s time to give the wood a deep clean. You might remember my affinity for a pressure washer and deck cleaning is where this machine really shines. A year’s worth of dirt, mildew, and gunk can be tough to take off, and while a stiff scrub brush and some serious back-aching effort will do the trick, the pressure washer will tackle the task in half the time. Many people recommend a bleach and water solution but I prefer to use a non-toxic alternative such as Spray Nine which has no corrosive chemicals and won’t kill your plants. Give the deck a good, solid coating of cleaner and let it sit for 15 minutes before pressure washing or scrubbing.

Stain and Seal

Staining the deck is an optional step but sealing it shouldn't be. Many decks experience discoloration over time and staining is one great way to give your wood a facelift and make it look new. But regardless of if you’re staining or not, applying a weather-resistant seal is your best defense against having the replace your deck sooner than you expected. Apply the sealant in a thin coat using a medium paintbrush or a roller, working with the wood grain to ensure an even finish. It’s important not to apply the sealant in direct sun as it will dry too quickly and the wood won’t be able to absorb it. If instructed, apply a second coat, working in the same way. Finally, allow the sealant to dry for 24 to 48 hours before placing deck furniture or planters back on the surface.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful like-new deck for the rest of the summer and beyond. Your wood will thank you.

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.